Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - UPFRONT - WORDS AMANDA DUCKER The author trav­elled with the as­sis­tance of Visit Vic­to­ria

Coun­try Vic­to­ria is full of sur­prises when it comes to do­ing things with care, skill and ro­man­tic old-fash­ioned home­li­ness

Fancy spend­ing a week­end knee-deep in wood shav­ings and but­tery shards of puff pas­try? Then hop to the Lost Trades fair for ar­ti­sans held an­nu­ally in Cen­tral Vic­to­ria’s Kyne­ton ev­ery March.

The event fills ev­ery ho­tel, mo­tel and Airbnb in the pretty town, in­clud­ing the stylish Flop House list­ings and the clas­sic Kyne­ton Old Rec­tory B&B. Ar­ti­san mak­ers and re­stor­ers line Piper St shops year-round if you miss the fair. My first stop was the Piper St Food Co, where a tra­di­tional pork pie work­shop was un­der way. It’s a lovely con­cept: guests spend the morn­ing mak­ing a wooden pie-mak­ing dolly and rolling pin with mas­ter craftsman Glen Run­dell and the af­ter­noon us­ing their hand­made tools to make pork pies with Damian San­der­cock, chef/ owner of Piper St Food Co.

The fam­ily food busi­ness is de­voted to tra­di­tional meth­ods and pic­nic-friendly food (which you could eat at nearby Hang­ing Rock of the fa­mous book and film).

Next door is An­imus Dis­tillery, of­fer­ing a range of small-batch gins. Rock­ing up to en­joy Damian’s piz­zas at An­imus on Fri­day nights is the lat­est thing for lo­cals.

I tried to re­sist eat­ing too much of Damian’s duck ter­rine be­fore head­ing to Source Din­ing, a Good Food Guide one-hat­ted restau­rant, where I took my time over a gen­er­ous five­course de­gus­ta­tion lunch. It started with beet­root and licorice root-cured king­fish and fin­ished with a dessert even pret­tier than the town, a mas­ter­fully ar­ranged con­coc­tion of white choco­late mousse, pis­ta­chio sponge, man­darin, curd and black sesame ice-cream.

Three high­lights of my stroll af­ter­wards were Cavaletti ate­lier with its Ja­pane­sein­spired cloth­ing in beau­ti­ful tex­tiles; Stock­room, a large but tightly cu­rated space spe­cial­is­ing in con­tem­po­rary art, cloth­ing and ceram­ics; and Run­dell & Run­dell, owned by afore­men­tioned wood­worker and Lost Trades Fair founder Glen, and filled with tim­ber, leather and li­nen home­wares.

My day of ex­plo­ration was pan­ning out beau­ti­fully. Leav­ing cen­tral Mel­bourne at 9am, I had driven for an hour to reach my first des­ti­na­tion, Mt Towrong fam­ily vine­yard in the Mace­don Ranges, where maker Ge­orge Cre­masco took me through his Ital­ian-style whites and reds. Ge­orge planted the vine­yard 21 years ago, but opened the cel­lar door only two years ago. A for­mer work­shop, it’s a funky pre­cast con­crete space with retro fur­ni­ture. Ge­orge was ex­cited about his first gin, un­der new la­bel Moun­tain Dis­till­ing, with pine nee­dle, pep­per­berry, lemon myr­tle and or­ange peel botan­i­cals. And I was ex­cited by the soft biscotti his son Gi­a­comi brought me with my cof­fee chaser. Mount Towrong is one of many cel­lar doors open­ing next week­end for the Mace­don Ranges wine and food fes­ti­val.

My third and fi­nal stop of the day was Hep­burn Springs, 40km from Kyne­ton. I didn’t have time to im­merse my­self at the min­eral baths or in­dulge in any of the spa treat­ments the town is fa­mous for, but I did stay in a lux­u­ri­ous ship­ping con­tainer.

Clifftop at Hep­burn opened its five-star vil­las three years ago and their pop­u­lar­ity in­spired the ad­di­tion of th­ese funky stu­dios. My plushly made king bed had beau­ti­ful hill­side views and the ar­chi­tect-de­signed space was full of treats and quirks, in­clud­ing chro­mather­apy shower light­ing (choose your shades for a multi-tinted ex­pe­ri­ence), top-ofthe-line TV and sound sys­tem, de­signer wood heater and glass floor­ing above a man­made stream. Plenty of wow fac­tor.

Din­ner was mus­sels mariniere and grilled oc­to­pus in the cosy am­bi­ence of The Surly Goat near the town’s his­toric spring baths.

At nearby Dayles­ford next morn­ing, I walked Wom­bat Hill Botanic Gar­dens, which has great views of the town and dis­trict, es­pe­cially from Pi­o­neers Look­out Tower. The 19th cen­tury gar­dens con­tain notable spec­i­mens and a charm­ing cafe. Posh main street Dayles­ford is worth a lap for home­wares, ca­sual luxe fash­ion and Ital­ian­in­spired eater­ies. An­other spa town, it’s a mecca for cashed-up Mel­bur­ni­ans.

Castle­maine, 40km north, is a more typ­i­cal Aus­tralian coun­try town, with its gold rush his­tory, wide main street and par­al­lel rail­way tracks with trains tootling through. Af­ter lunch on a sunny rooftop deck at Togs Cafe, I ran into two of the town’s ac­claimed au­thors, Tas­ma­nian-born Carmel Bird, who was lug­ging a dou­ble bass to a clas­si­cal con­cert, and Cate Kennedy, who was off to host a ses­sion with jour­nal­ist Gabrielle Chan at the New North­ern Art Ho­tel. Around an­other cor­ner, the Democ­racy for Din­ner group was run­ning a fo­rum on themes sim­i­lar to those cov­ered in Chan’s book Rusted Off: Why Coun­try Aus­tralia is Fed Up, which de­tails why ru­ral vot­ers are de­sert­ing ma­jor par­ties for in­de­pen­dents.

I fin­ished my week­end as I started it, in the com­pany of pas­sion­ate ar­ti­sans. The Mill Castle­maine is a for­mer woollen mill re­cently reborn as a creative hub. Its Aus­trian cof­fee house, Das Kaf­fee­haus, was packed, the vin­tage bazaar was epic and the Oak­wood small­go­ods by Ger­man Ralf Finke were as good as you’d ex­pect from a fleis­chmeis­ter who has honed his craft over four decades.

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